SIXTEENTH CENTURY - THE CHURCH CROWNED WITH THORNS
|Blessed Christina of Aquila|
Since the fall of man the knowledge and experience of good and evil, has ever existed in human society: but this experimental truth has never perhaps been so strikingly evident as during the sixteenth century. We should not, however, be surprised if this nineteenth century of ours, before closing its cycle, will make an effort to surpass it both in malice and in goodness, ending in the complete triumph of truth and justice.
During the sixteenth century the two mighty and everlasting foes, evil and good, truth and error, Satan and God, waged a terrible war upon earth. As before the creation of man, Lucifer boldly lifted in heaven the banner of rebellion against God and drew to his ranks, it is believed, about one third of his fellow angels; so in the sixteenth century he succeeded, through his agents upon earth, in exciting a third part of Europe to rebellion against the Church of God. The Church was in dire affliction, and more bitterly than Rachel, she lamented over the loss of millions of her deluded children. The proud and impious leaders of the rebellion boasted of their victory, which was in reality their most fatal defeat and their successors have since kept up the insane shout, to delude their credulous dupes and followers. But the Church of God can never be conquered. She is built upon an impregnable rock, surrounded by hundreds of millions of brave and faithful children, illuminated by the wisdom and defended by the omnipotence of God. Round her thick walls, more solid than granite, more impervious than steel, we daily read the words engraved by the hand of God in shining characters of gold. The gates of hell shall never prevail against the Church. Betrayed by the Judases of the sixteenth century, defamed by the Scribes and Pharisees, persecuted to death by Jews and Gentiles, she, as usual, quietly took refuge in the Cenacle chamber of her council, not in Jerusalem but in Trent; not on Mount Sion, but on the higher and more majestic mountains of the Alps, the Citadel of Europe. There the Church defeated her enemy. The true wisdom and virtue of Christianity was concentrated in that august assembly. The Holy Ghost descended upon it. The Church enjoyed a second Pentecost. Floods of heavenly light, and flames of burning zeal, darted from it north and south, east and west, reaching rapidly the shores of the Pacific Ocean and the distant islands of Japan. Her apostles quickly repaired her losses and doubled her numbers, by conquests in Asia, Africa and America.
Among the thirty canonized saints of this century, several were very eminent in virtue and good works. It will be sufficient to mention the names of St. Francis of Paula, founder of the austere contemplative religious order of Friar Minims in Italy, who died in 1507. St. Philip Neri, founder of the Oratorians, Italy. St. Jerome Emiliani, founder of the Congregation of Regular Teaching Clergy of Somascha, Italy. St. Charles Borromeo, St. Andrew Avelino, St. Catharine of Genoa, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Cajetan of Thienna, Italy, founder of the Religious Congregation called Theatines. In Spain we find St. Thomas of Villanova, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa, the seraphic reformer of the Carmelites; St. Peter of Alcantara, the austere reformer of the Franciscan Friars. St. Louis Bertrand, the great Apostle of South America. St. Francis Xavier, the famous Apostle of the East Indies and Japan, St. Francis Borgia and towering above all, we admire the noble figure of the great founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola. In France there is the holy queen St. Jane. Portugal has given to the Church St. John of God, founder of the admirable Congregation of Religious Brothers of the Infirm, who have done and do so much to alleviate the manifold sufferings of humanity.
In this important section, we have extended our remarks and enumerations to put to shame if possible, the arrogant boasting of the pretended reformers. We must now return to our main subject. During this century we find no less than thirty saints or servants of God, who received the stigmata of the five wounds, the Crown of Thorns, or supernaturally shared in the sufferings of the passion of our blessed Savior. We confine our special notice to the Crown of Thorns.
13. Blessed Christina of Aquila
Blessed Christina was a native of Aquila in the Kingdom of Naples, became an Augustinian Nun and on a Thursday in Holy Week, she received the miraculous Crown of Thorns. She died Feburary 18th 1543, being 63 years of age. The Bollandists mention her name on the 18th of January among the saints previously omitted. See also the History of the Order of St. Augustine, of the saints, blessed, and other illustrious persons of the Order, by Father Simplician of St. Martin, published 1640.
14. Dominica del Paradisor
This great servant of God was born in the city of Florence, Tuscany in the year 1473, and entered the Convent of the Dominican Nuns in her native city when very young. She was only twenty-four years of age, when she received the Five Wounds and the Crown of Thorns. Dominica died August 5th, 1553. Her virginal body is preserved incorrupt to the present day in the Chapel of the Villa Poertilli near Florence. One of her fingers is wanting, having through devotion been taken by the Queen of Etruria. (Marchese, 5th August. Also life of the servant of God Dominicadel Paradiso by the Dominican Father Ignatius del Niente, published in Florence, 1625)
15. Blessed Catharine of Racconigi
Blessed Catherine was born at Racconigi, Italy, June 14th, 1486. When very young she became a Dominican Nun and received the Stigmas of the Five Wounds, and the Crown of Thorns on the Tuesday after Easter at twenty-four years of age, namely in 1510. This great servant of God died September 4th, 1347, sixty one years old. She was beatified by Pope Pius VII, April 9th, 1808. (Marchese compendio delle cose mirabili della Beata Caterina da Racconigi, Turin 1858) This admirable servant of God was a Spaniard and became a worthy
companion and spiritual daughter of St. Teresa in the Carmelite reformation.
She had a special devotion to the passion of our Lord. One day, whilst
meditating before a picture of our Lord crowned with thorns, Catharine
felt deeply penetrated at the consideration of his sufferings and earnestly
entreated him to allow her to experience a share of the pain which he suffered
in his adorable head. In answer to the prayer of his loving spouse, our Lord
miraculously bowed down his head and allowed a real Crown of Thorns
to drop down on her extended hands. Catharine profoundly venerated this
precious gift, kissed it with a lively transport of devotion, and pressed it
with great fervor upon her head. She continued to wear it during the twenty
three remaining years of her life, though it caused her great physical pain.
It was only at the command of her spiritual director, to whom she was ever
most perfectly obedient in everything, that she laid it aside during her
frequent severe illnesses. This great servant of Jesus died on the 24th of
February, 1586 (History of the Reformed Carmelites, by Father Francis of
St. Mary, and life of St. Teresa by Bouix)
This is another of the many beautiful and fragrant flowers of sanctity, given to the Church by the good city of Florence. Catharine was born from the noble family de Ricci April 15, 1522. In her earliest youth she became a Dominican Nun in the town of Prato, Tuscany. She was only twenty years of age when she received the stigmata of the five wounds on the Octave of Easter, April the 14th, 1342, from which exhaled a most agreeable preternatural odor. Moreover, the form of the cross was marked in relief by elevation of the flesh upon her shoulders. This admirable servant of God received also the impression of the Crown of Thorns. She died in the Convent of St. Vincent in Prato, February 2nd 1589 and was beatified by Pope Clement XI. Benedict XIV, in the Bull of her canonization 1746, gives an interesting account of her numerous miracles and her wonderful gifts. (See life of the Venerable Mother Catharine de Ricci by Father Philip Guidi, Florence, 1622. Also life of St. Catharine de Ricci, extracted from the authentic documents of her beatification, and canonization, Rome 1746. Consult above all the acts of canonization by Benedict XIV)
18. Sister Raggi de Scio
This servant of God was born in 1552, and lived for some years in the married state. At the death of her husband she was left a widow with two sons whom she brought up so well that both became Dominican Friars, in the famous Convent of the Minerva in Rome. This virtuous widow and most pious mother, went to live near them and took the Habit of the Third Order of St. Dominic. On the feast of Pentecost 1583, whilst praying in the chapel of the Blessed Virgin, in the Church of the Minerva, she received the stigmata of the five wounds and the Crown of Thorns. She died January 7th 1600, and was buried in the same church. (Marchese 7, January) The Bollandists mention this servant of God among the saints previously omitted, and quote two lives written about her by two Dominicans. One was published in Barcelona, Spain by Father Raphael da Ribera, 1606, the other by Father Arnaud Rayseins of Douai.
19. Benedict of Reggio
This holy servant of God was born in the city of Reggio, Kingdom of Naples. He was a religious of the Order of St. Francis among the Capuchins. Through a special devotion to the Crown of Thorns of our dear Lord, Benedict obtained the favor that at least one of the thorns should pierce his head penetrating his skull, and causing for many years a most painful ulceration. He died in the city of Bologna in the convent of his religious Order in the year 1602. (Hueber)